Confronting Racial Injustice in Schools

Confronting Racial Injustice in Schools We asked five education practitioners and researchers to respond to the following prompt:

Earlier this month, Education Week Commentary published an essay, “Education Scholars: Challenging Racial Injustice Begins With Us,” by Nicole Nguyen, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago. In her op-ed, set against the backdrop of the incident in McKinney, Texas, on June 8, in which a white policeman officer pinned a black teenage girl to the ground, Nguyen wrote that the academy has the “power to disrupt the cultural contexts that authorize the criminalization of black youths.” She called on colleges of education “to serve as political allies of the young people in our communities to dismantle systems of violence.”

Many, both inside and outside the K-12 space, including President Barack Obama, continue to debate how best to end racial violence, and whether it is realistic to assume there can be a reasonable timeline. In an interview on June 22 with comedian Marc Maron on his popular “WTF” podcast, following the gunning down of nine black parishioners at a historic church in Charleston, S.C., the president said, “The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives … casts a long shadow … Societies don’t overnight completely erase everything that happened 2[00] to 300 years prior.”

As educators, scholars, and members of the K-12 community, what do you think? Are there steps the K-12 community can take to change the current narrative around race? At whose feet does the responsibility for dismantling racial violence lie?

A student-centered approach to teaching could deter racial bias, writes Samina Hadi-Tabassum, an associate professor at Dominican University.

Contemporary society offers the best curriculum for teaching students about the trauma of racism and discrimination, writes H. Richard Milner, University of Pittsburgh education professor.

We have not taught children to "look across line of race and class," writes James E. Ryan, the dean of Harvard's Graduate School of Education.

Educator Marilyn Rhames writes that teachers can fight the scourge of racism by confronting it.

Educators must acknowledge the changing racial demographics in schools across the country, writes Tyrone Howard, an education professor at UCLA.


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